We’ve just released our seventh Digital Diaries study which showed that 53% of the workers we surveyed – and over 6/10 in English speaking countries – think that social media has eroded workplace privacy.
AVG Digital Diaries is a series of studies that started over two years ago to chart how technology is affecting different age groups’ development and daily lives – from birth onwards. This seventh stage polled 4,000 working adults in 10 countries (the USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand), and looked at how social media is changing workplace dynamics.
Our research showed that while it is still something affecting a minority of workers, cyber-bullying or being on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior is more common than people probably think.
Almost one in 10 workers (9%) had been ‘insulted’ or faced similar aggressive behavior via online channels – in the US that figure rose to 15%.
One in 20 (6%) (but as high as one in 10 in the USA (10%) had even been the recipient of unwanted romantic advances online.
If we take US Census data showing an average of 20+ employees per firm (http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/01/what-does-the-average-american-business-look-like.html) that means three people will have been cyber-bullied in a typical sized office.
What do employees do when a colleague has approached them online in a way that they don’t think is appropriate?
In Germany most (65%) workers will approach the colleague directly, which can easily spill into heated workplace confrontations and debates.
Across all countries however, there is an understanding that cyber-bullying is something that should be taken up with your manager with 58% (69% in the UK, 61% in the US) saying they would do so.
Many believe that social media is blurring the boundaries between work and home and this is evident from two other stats.
Over a quarter (27%) of workers have felt pressure to accept a colleague’s social media friend request. Meanwhile, over one in 10 (11%) and 14% in the UK have been embarrassed by workplace photos – for example of an office party – appearing on social networks.
How to keep your private life private? Here are three things you can do:
1 – Restrict the information. If you do have colleagues who are Facebook friends, think about restricting what they can see. Remember you can create a custom list for who you share, or don’t share certain information and content with (https://www.facebook.com/help/325807937506242/)
2 – Follow the rules. Your employer is far less likely to examine your personal social media activity if you give them no reason to doubt you are misusing social media at work. Even if your company doesn’t have a social media policy, the chances are there is a code of conduct or acceptable use or electronic communications policies or standards applicable and your employment contract will already cover general areas such as confidentiality and not bringing the business into disrepute. Quite simply, the less you talk about work on social networks the better.
3 – Set the boundaries. The more you openly discuss what you’ve been doing on Facebook and other social media channels, the more your colleagues will take an interest in it. If you make clear Facebook is your own private sphere, then you are less likely to get unwanted friend requests. And if you do get them, there is no reason why you should feel pressured to accept them.
Information on the current and previous digital diaries can be found at avgdigitaldiairies.com